There is plenty of gratitude at Hualani’s. Especially for Sean Appel, who has worked in every facet of the restaurant business, who knows there is a lot to be thankful for on Kauai.

Appel says his love for food was cultivated from a young age, growing up in Calabasas, California. “I grew up in a Jewish household and food was always super important. It was a big part of our holidays and our traditions,” he said. “Even though I had no background in cooking, I decided to go to culinary school.”

Appel brings that broad scope of experience to the table, so to speak, at Timbers Kauai. “Our vision is to make it a more expansive food and beverage program, opening up more programs to make Hokuala a place where farm-to-table becomes a lifestyle offering a lot of different options.” Appel loves the fact that Hualani’s is so much more than a restaurant but also a true gathering place. “We love to work with owners to find out what they’re most interested in and building our programs and activities around them,” he says. Right out of the gate he’s got an ambitious lineup for the summer season with something going on almost every night of the week.

We caught up with Appel to talk can’t-miss events, wine makers he knows and loves, and why champagne and caviar will always be the best combination.

Farm to Taco Wednesdays

“The Farm at Hokuala is a huge component of what we do at Hualani’s that’s so special and we want to feature it as much as possible.” Farm to Taco is based on the farm-to-table concept that defines everything Hualani’s does, but with a casual, playful approach. Featuring the freshest local seafood, pork, or vegetarian style, guests can get three tacos for $8 dollars and an island inspired margarita special that changes every week. “Most of the ingredients come from the farm,” Appel says. “We also have a chef out on the floor serving our popular guacapoke, our take on a Hawaiian-Latin fusion that features guacamole topped with really fresh ahi or ono poke.”

Farm to Table Dinner

It doesn’t get any fresher, or better, than when Chef Zach and Farmer Cody collaborate on these weekly three-course, pre-fix menus inspired by ingredients that are sourced from the farm on that very day.  The menu includes an appetizer, choice of entrée featuring seafood, meat or vegetarian and dessert for $40 per person.  Offered on Thursday evenings, this is a great opportunity to enjoy the bounty that is in our own backyard.

Chicken and Waffle Sundays

Fried chicken and waffles is a classic American dish, made popular in the Southern US. Thousands of miles away, at Hualani’s, the dish has had an upgrade with added Hawaiian flair. To start, the fried chicken is marinated in a pineapple teriyaki sauce, served with bacon- jalapeno-cheddar waffles and accompanied by our signature ‘chilikoi’ syrup, using chilis from our farm. “It’s an island spin on an American favorite and has caught on like wildfire,” Appel says. “Reservations are made up to a week in advance and it is by far, the busiest evening on property. People love it, we get a lot of regulars that look forward to it weekly.” For $7.00 per plate, it’s no wonder this special is a Sunday evening delight for many families. Don’t forget to make your reservations far ahead of your stay.

Special Wine Event: Exclusive Melville Winery Dinner

One of the key ingredients Appel brings to the table are the relationships he has in the wine industry, and the Melville Winery Dinner was the first of many more interactive wine dinners that will be hosted in a casual setting by Timbers Kauai at Hualani’s. “The locals and owners really enjoyed this first one. We plan to have this programming go monthly,” Appel says. These series are more intimate and limited to 30 guests for a four-course meal and wine pairing served at a community table on the lawn with a featured wine maker. Each event begins with a presentation given by the wine maker and the chef and are a true collaboration. “We hang out in the kitchen and taste the wines and try to visualize what would work well together, and that’s how we build the menu.” The Melville Winery Dinner gave owners a true taste—not just of the wines, but what life at Hokuala is all about.

Special Event: Laurent-Perrier Champagne, Black River Caviar, and Van Balen Fine Jewlery Another incredible Hualani’s event featured Laurent Perrier wines and a four-course meal. The format mirrored the Melville event, starting with a reception and presentation by Naomi Smith, the Western US brand ambassador, and Chef. The presentations were followed by a special meal featuring Black River Caviar. “We were talking about champagne in the kitchen and caviar came up, so I reached out to my friend Graham from Black River Caviar who I’ve done events with in the past and he agreed to come out.” Appel was most excited for their Grand Siecle and that two of the four courses featured a Russian oscietra caviar from Uruguay. “This dinner experience is an insane value, and that’s what we like,” Appel says. Kauai-based Van Balen Fine Jewelry joined the party to round out the trifecta of true luxury, Hawaii-style.